A House of Lords Committee has slammed governments across Europe, including the UK Government, for failing to do more to protect lone refugee children.
In a damning new report [PDF], Peers slammed European leaders for leaving unaccompanied children living in squalid conditions and vulnerable to exploitation. The Committee also noted the UK’s reluctance to help relocate children away from unsafe conditions in other countries.
Last year, nearly 90,000 lone children sought safety in Europe. Just 3% sought refuge in Britain.
The Refugee Council gave evidence to the Committee earlier in the year, calling for unaccompanied children in the UK asylum system to be better protected.
The Committee echoed our call for the Government to review its existing policy, which sees lone child refugees in Britain barred from being reunited with their parents.
Peers also backed our call for all separated children to have access to an independent guardian who had legal powers to look out for them and the Committee also called for children to be given the benefit of the doubt in age dispute cases.
Responding to the Lords’ report today, Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said:
“Children who arrive in Britain on their own are invariably bewildered, isolated and frightened, yet what they are greeted with is a complex, hostile, process in which they are routinely disbelieved by the same adults whose job it is to protect them.
“It’s extremely concerning that the Government continues to deny lone children access to an independent guardian who could have the power to ensure their needs were put first. Instead, Ministers allow ill-equipped immigration officers to guess children’s ages based purely on their appearances rather than referring children to the experts for proper assessments.
“What’s especially disturbing is the Government’s current policy of deliberately and permanently divides lone child refugees from their mums and dads, by preventing them from being eligible for refugee family reunion.
“With more children forced to flee their homes alone than ever before, the least we can demand of the UK Government is that the small number who seek refuge here are properly protected and cared for.”